CONTRIBUTOR SPOTLIGHT: INTERVIEW WITH
SOFIA MARTIMIANAKIS

Rappahannock Review Nonfiction Editors: “Journey to Ithaca” is about a harrowing, life-changing experience of yours.  What was your process in crafting the piece to balance emotion and action?

Sofia Martimianakis: “Journey to Ithaca” is a story I heard many times growing up. My father attributed his harrowing experience in the Mediterranean Sea as the event that set him on course for Canada. It’s a story that holds a lot of significance for my family and with my father no longer alive to tell it, I felt compelled to write a creative nonfiction piece about his life-changing experience.

While crafting “Journey to Ithaca,” I kept in mind that my father’s experience was as much of an emotional journey as it was a physical trial. I tried to capture the betrayal he felt when his island began to close in on him, despite his best efforts to be present in the moment and to integrate with his community. My father was a captivating storyteller, which I chose to honour through first-person narration; I think it was the best narrative style to bring the action scene to life and help transport the reader into unchartered waters.

RR: “Flitzani” contains a good amount of dramatic irony.  Can you expand on how you used this to heighten the tension throughout the piece?

SM: I utilized dramatic irony to generate curiosity and sustain the interest level of the reader. Right from the opening sentence, the reader is privy to information that increases their anticipation of an outcome considered improbable by the narrator. By creating a contrast between the immediate situation and the resolution to follow, I was able to heighten the suspense while I setup the implications of the resolution.

RR: Heritage plays a clear role in both “Flitzani” and “Journey to Ithaca.”  How has familial history shaped your writing, nonfiction and otherwise?

SM: The tensions I experienced as a child, between the culture I was immersed in at school and the culture my immigrant parents fostered at home shaped my identity as both a person and a writer. As I learned more about my familial history, through stories and summer vacations to Crete, I began to realize my heritage and upbringing gave me a unique perspective and narrative voice.

Now I take pride in taking readers to beautiful places, rarely visited by tourists, through my nonfiction work. I aim to show that writing from a specific cultural-perspective can still have a universal impact, which is one of the many reasons I believe diversity should be celebrated.

RR: We understand that you’re working on your first novel. How different has that process been so far from writing nonfiction?

SM: Interestingly, the fantasy adventure novel I’m currently working on explores themes also present in my nonfiction work. My protagonist’s struggle to define herself after discovering shocking details about her family history is influenced by my experience of being raised Greek in Canada.

I’ve been enjoying the experience so far, especially the world building aspect of writing fantasy. Instead of focussing on realistically portraying a location like I do in my nonfiction work, this is my chance to flex my creativity and explore real-world themes in a setting with warring elf factions, giants, and sorcerers. One thing that has helped me transition into writing a longer project is setting realistic weekly goals for myself and resisting to urge to edit each chapter extensively before finishing the first draft of my manuscript.

RR: What is your favorite part about writing flash nonfiction? What is the most challenging part?

SM: The best part of writing flash nonfiction is discovering how even a short personal story can hint at a larger universal concept. The most challenging part is the pressure to do a story justice, especially when I’m writing about an experience that happened to a loved one. What I try to keep in mind is that it’s a privilege to be able to speak for those who no longer have a voice and to tell stories that would otherwise remain untold.

Sofia Martimianakis’ work in Issue 6.2: 

Journey to Ithaca

Flitzani